In his latest blog entry for PakPassion.net, former Pakistan fast-bowler Mohammad Zahid writes about his excitement at the prospect of the return of Mohammad Amir to the Pakistan side, the advent of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and Saeed Ajmal's future in Pakistan cricket.
By Mohammad Zahid (8th September, 2015)
Let me start with a topic that seems to be featuring on most sports headlines around the world, namely the return of the spot fixing trio to playing cricket at the domestic and possibly the international level.
Mohammad Amir was a great talent back in 2010 and should have no problem in regaining that status when he does eventually start playing international cricket. In my view, these skills never desert you. They are all up there in your head. Yes he may have an injury or may lose match fitness but it will be a matter of time when Amir is back to his best. He will be a force to be reckoned with in a matter of a five or six First-Class matches.
In a strange way, his absence from international cricket during the so called critical development years may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the young bowler. That period away from the game gave his body a break, an enforced one, but one that probably saved him from injuries which would have come from a high workload. He is now returning to cricket as a mature human and also his body is better equipped to handle the pressures of international cricket. Whether his maturity in the mental sense where he seems to be making all the right sort of statements is made up for public consumption, or whether it’s genuine is something we don’t know and shouldn’t really care about. My advice to Amir will be to go out there and bowl as much as he can and work on regaining his form. Once he starts playing good cricket, all other matters will be pushed to the background.
The facts are that Amir committed a mistake and suffered the consequences in the shape of punishment and a five year ban. He has apologized and seems remorseful. Cricket is his bread and butter and one does hope that he has learnt his lesson. The question for the rest of us is simply this. How much more do some want to punish Mohammad Amir? He has served his punishment, now let him win matches for Pakistan again. Pakistan is full of crooks of many descriptions but it seems that the ideals of law and order seem to start and end with Mohammad Amir!
It will be interesting, though, to see what happens when Amir does play First-Class cricket. Forget how his teammates may or may not feel about him, I am more concerned about the reaction of the paying public to seeing Amir on a cricket pitch again. Our home crowds may forget and forgive him as they love their heroes and tend to have short memories when it comes to famous people. What I worry about is the type of reception he will get when he plays international cricket say for example in England. Those crowds are unforgiving at the best of times so how will they react when they see Amir on the field?
Moving on to the case of Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, the situation is slightly different there. Age is not on Asif’s side. He is, as per official records, thirty-two now but we really don’t know how old he really is. To try and make a comeback at this age will take some doing. As with Amir, his skills are not the issue but his match fitness will certainly be an important factor. Asif may not have an easy pass as Amir would have to the national team as most people feel Amir was very young when he made that mistake. Similarly for Salman Butt, he will find it very difficult to make room for himself as an opener in a team where we have developed a few opening options. I really don’t see him making a comeback in the national team.
There is also some good news in the shape of the announcement of the venue and dates for the Pakistan Super League (PSL). It is to be held in Doha in February of 2016 but I would have preferred to have this being played in Pakistan. I suppose, one can say that if the IPL can be played in South Africa and still be a success, then the PSL can also be played in Doha with similar results. It is quite obvious that the security of the foreign players who will be interested in playing in this league is the prime reason for the choice of a location like Doha.
I see no reason why the PSL will not be a complete success. My only regret is that the people of Pakistan who are cricket mad and crave to see cricket on their home grounds will be, yet again, deprived of watching their own stars play at home. Cricket is the only uniting force for the people of Pakistan and their passion for the game cannot be described in words. But what can be done about this situation? The answer is not much. Conditions are not that stable and whilst we wish for this type of cricket to be played in Pakistan, we must also remember that another incident of the type that took place in 2009 during the tour of Sri Lanka will spell absolute disaster for cricket in our country.
The central contracts for 2015-2016 have finally been agreed and that is a good sign. There is a lot of noise around granting of an A category contract to Shoaib Malik. It is not my place to say whether he deserves it or not and I suppose he has been granted this contract based upon his seniority and due to the number of matches he has played in his career. Now if the criteria for granting contracts in such a category was solely based upon ability then there could be other deserving players as well. Putting aside the contract issue, we all know that Shoaib has been playing for Pakistan for almost fifteen years and frankly speaking, how much more time can a player need to become the best? How much more improvement can we expect from a player at this stage in his career is a question that needs to be asked.
Let me conclude by talking about Saeed Ajmal. Despite all what we hear, Saeed’s future is very bright. Whether he plays for Pakistan or not, a player of his ability will be involved with cricket for a very long time to come. He will be able to play county cricket and also cricket in Pakistan. He is now bowling with a new action and there are a few people who doubt his abilities but let me tell you this, the skills of a good bowler just don’t go away so easily. I would say that the only obstacle in Saeed Ajmal’s way is not whether he can be effective with a new action or not but the fact that age is not on his side. To me this is the biggest hurdle for Ajmal and one that he has to overcome if he wishes to extend his career any further.